In Carnarvon, a tired and dirty Basingstoke walked into Ned’s office. “Just about done; everything’s installed on the hardware side, now all we have to do is set up the software and run a systems check.”
“Thanks Archie,” Ned replied, pointing at the laptops and the desktop computer.
Basingstoke put in a CD that contained the specially-written software, and began the install on the first laptop. As part of the installation, a window popped up, and Basingstoke explained, “This is secured in part by a password. Make it something you can remember, because changing it is hard. A mix of letters and numbers is best, at least nine characters. You’ll also need a four-digit number for the security system keypad. Don’t make it anything that anyone can guess.”
Ned pondered that for a few moments. “One-nine-nine-seven for the number… and phoenix for the word.”
Basingstoke wrote it down on a slip of paper as ‘pho1997enix’, and then handed the paper to Ned. “Got it, and it’ll be in all lower case, number in the middle, just like I wrote it, and the numbers alone for the four digit code,” Basingstoke said, having already committed it to memory.
Basingstoke entered it into the software and then began the process again on the next two computers. On each, he had to configure IP addresses, then when he was done, he set the numeric code on the keypad. A few glitches in the subnet mask entry caused him a few minutes of troubleshooting, but when he was done, he had screens up on each of Ned’s computers; multiple camera windows. “You can select which one to view, or view the lot as big thumbnails and click on one to zoom to it. The pan controls for the panable ones are at the bottom of each frame. The main screen monitors status on the motion sensors and the door and window sensors. You’re up and running, and now I need to ring the monitoring company and make certain they’re reading your feed.” Basingstoke did so, and ended up spending half an hour on the phone, ironing out bugs in the intranet lash-up. When Basingstoke hung up, he told Ned, “You’re set, it’s all working and passed a systems check from the monitoring company. I’ll leave you three copies of the instructions, but it’s pretty simple; to arm the system, enter your four-digit numeric code on the keypad. It then gives you two minutes to exit. To disarm it, enter only via your front gate and enter the code there, within forty seconds.”
“Okay, how do I use the computers from home?” Ned asked.
“Same as from here; just open the program from the desktop icon and you’re in, if you’re connected to the ‘net via any kind of broadband. It’ll want your full code for any changes.”
Ned fiddled with the controls for a few minutes, and then reached for his checkbook. “Thanks Archie.”
Basingstoke smiled as he watched Ned write out the check. “Just give me a ring anytime if you have any questions, or for technical issues call the monitoring company; their number is on the cards stapled to the paperwork I’m about to give you.”
Half an hour later, back in his motel room, Basingstoke entered Ned’s password into his own PC, and checked to make sure he could monitor it. He changed a few settings on his slightly different software, making certain that his computer could record the feed from Atlantis’s camera, and would do so whenever the motion sensor tripped, regardless of whether the system was armed or not. Next, Basingstoke logged into the monitoring company’s server in Melbourne, where he made a few changes to the configuration for Ned’s account, ensuring that the video feed from Atlantis would be recorded, compressed, and emailed to one of Basingstoke’s e-mail addresses if his laptop was offline.
With that task done, Basingstoke allowed himself a shower, and then some dinner. He avoided any alcohol; he never drank within twenty-four hours of flying. The security system he’d installed for Ned had never been intended to be his sole means of finding Trevor: Basingstoke always liked to have more than one means to an end.
Ned set out on foot, heading for the customs shack, carrying one of his laptops.
He strolled in the door and set it on Fowler’s desk. “The security system is operational, I’ve checked it out every way I can think of,” he said, as he plugged in an Ethernet cable to connect to their router, logged into his security program and began to show Fowler and Grundig how to work it.
A few minutes later, with the feed from Atlantis on the screen, Grundig said, “We can probably just watch this from here or our homes; we all live within a few minutes, and the police station is even closer.”
Fowler studied the screen for a few moments. “Good setup, looks top notch.” He paused for a few moments, thinking, and then asked, “This deal came along at just the right time. The perfect time. Ned, how often do you get salesmen stopping by with this kind of stuff?”
“Uh, the only one I remember was about two years ago, selling just alarm setups, not security cameras. That’s about it,” Ned replied.
Fowler leaned back, looking up at the ceiling, thinking. “Okay, that’s one, but only one. So this guy shows up the day before we get an intruder, you sign the next morning, and the system is up and running in days, plus you got a good deal. I really don’t like coincidences.”
Ned angled his head, his eyes opening a little wider. “Hold up Greg, I thought he’d been checked out?”
“He was, and came up clean. His business looks clean and so does the monitoring company – it’s a big outfit in Melbourne – and he made sales pitches at several local businesses the day he came to see you. Constable White even asked the Federal Police to look into him, and he came back clean except for a couple of parking tickets, one unpaid. I don’t see one suspicious thing about him, except for the timing, but I don’t like the timing at all,” Fowler said.
Ned shook his head and sighed. “Great, now we’ve more to worry about.”
Grundig glanced at the screen, and then at Ned. “After your first meeting with him, you let him know you were real interested, right? What if we’re wrong and the whole ruckus that night had nothing to do with Atlantis, but was just giving you a damn good reason to sign up for this system? Did you give him any reason to think Atlantis was something you wanted kept safe?”
Ned shook his head. “No, I was real careful, I didn’t even let him see her, I just took him to a couple of other boats.”
Fowler drummed his fingers on his desk. “Wouldn’t make much sense in any case; why would a salesman risk prison to get a sale? Okay, he checks out, plus he’s not the first salesman to drop by, but… maybe I’m being paranoid, but I just don’t like the timing. Still, it does give us a good way to keep an eye on Atlantis –” Fowler’s head snapped around and he looked at Grundig, then Ned, “Wait, if I’m not being paranoid, that could be exactly what’s gone on here. If he’s trying to destroy Atlantis or something aboard, it’d be damn handy to have her secured by a system he could disable remotely. Ned, rig up some sort of a backup, like that trip switch you had. But, make it something he won’t figure he’s tripped.” Fowler pulled a couple of walkie-talkies out of a drawer, and hit the page button on one, which made the other one beep until he released it. “These have a range of about ten kilometers, which is plenty. The page button is probably just a contact switch, so what about running a wire to it, with some sort of a tripwire like you had before to close the contact? I could set up a few to receive, so we could each have one.” He fished out the chargers and added, “We can keep the ones we have with us on charge a lot of the time, but see what you can do about the sender. If it can be kept on charge, we’ll have no worries about the batteries going flat. This way, if that salesman is up to something, he’ll have set a trap for himself. If not, it’s a free backup for the security system.”
Ned picked up one of the walkie-talkies and its charger. “I like it. I’ll take it to the yard and open it up, then get it all set up.”
“Thanks Ned. One other thing; how’s the search of Atlantis going?” Fowler asked.
Ned sighed and shook his head. “Nothing so far, and I’ve hit all the likely spots. I’m doing the hull itself now, but if there’s anything in there to find, it’s small.” Ned paused, and then added quietly, there’s one place I just thought of, and it’s one I can’t check: the point of her bows. There’s dead space in there, perfect for a hiding place, and that’d fit if your intruder isn’t the salesman; he went aboard, found the bows smashed up, and then looked around to see if anything might have been salvaged from them. One of ‘em is mostly gone, the other partially, so anything in it would be on the bottom of the Southern Ocean – but nobody would know that without having a look at Atlantis. I’ll check the mangled fiberglass for any sign of anything, but it’s likely swept clean long ago.”
“Thanks Ned, good thinking, but that’d mean we’re chasing our tails watching Atlantis; he’s found out that what he was after is gone. If that’s the case, it’s up to the Florida police to sort all this out, our intruder won’t be back – provided we’re right on that, and on Atlantis being the real target as well. All we can do for now, I suppose, is keep looking and watching,” Fowler said.
The next morning, Basingstoke rose just after sunup, and was in the air within the hour, climbing out over the azure waters of Shark Bay. He looped back, to check the areas around Carnarvon and the mouth of the Gascoyone River, and then turned south, staying just off the coast, to give himself a better vantage point. He saw several boats, but it was obvious that none were large catamarans, so he continued south, towards Hamlin Pool, searching for Kookaburra from ten thousand feet. Shark Bay is vast, but Basingstoke knew he could search it all within a day. If he found nothing, his plan was to search the coasts and inlets, both north and south of Carnarvon. He felt confident that either he’d find Kookaburra, or his security system would detect Trevor visiting Atlantis.
A few hours later, Basingstoke stopped in Denham to refuel, and then continued his search, flying over Rhys Lagoon and Boat Haven Loop, and then north, searching Dirk Hartog Island and then Bernier and Dorre Islands, and then further north as far as Coral Bay before returning to Carnarvon.
That evening, he checked his security system video. He fast-forward through it, finding only several hours of compressed video of Ned working on Atlantis, and then made a few calls to his contacts in Melbourne, seeking any sign of Trevor in Carnarvon Bay, Tasmania, just in case. The calls proved to be mainly fruitless, though one contact mentioned something that Basingstoke thought might prove very useful. “Get it. Don’t bother haggling over the price, but do it for cash so there’s no trail,” he said, smiling coldly.
On their third morning at Murchison Station, Trevor and Shane packed up, making ready to leave. “We’ve got an hour before checkout,” Trevor said, glancing around the cottage, and thinking of the great time they’d had: exploring, hiking, four-wheeling, and horseback riding.
Shane grinned and nodded. “It’s been awesome.” He glanced towards the two single beds, and then stared at the one they’d been sharing. He wrapped his arms around Trevor, giving him a deep kiss, and then tugging him towards the bed. “I know just what we can do for an hour,” he said, with Trevor already tugging at his shorts.
Just over an hour later, looking slightly ruffled, Trevor and Shane checked out, bidding a fond farewell to the station.
When they reached the main road, they turned left, heading east, passing the airport and driving fifteen miles down the highway, towards the turnoff for Hawk’s Head, a scenic overlook that was one part of the inland side of the park that they had yet to see.
What they found was another spectacular vista of the Murchison Gorge: sheer cliffs of a million shades of red, and the river roaring against the rocks far below. A sign mentioned a hiking trail to the canyon floor, so they loaded backpacks with food and water, setting off on a rim trail that led to a side canyon. Several times Shane edged back from the precipice, so Trevor said, “Let’s take a close look when the trail starts down; it might get kinda hairy if the trail narrows and is right on the edge of a cliff. Maybe I should scout ahead and shout if it’s okay.”
Shane glanced warily ahead. “It’s not too bad here; I can keep back from the edge, and I can always turn back.”
The trail soon detoured inland, following the edge of a side canyon. The ground was covered by scattered green bushes, and the side canyon lacked the steep drop-offs of the main gorge, much to Shane’s relief. The trail began an angled decent into the side canyon, traversing a forty-five degree slope. Trevor studied it for a few moments before saying, “If it’ll bother you, let’s turn back.”
“Let’s give it a burl; it doesn’t look that bad here. It’s just cliffs that I hate,” Shane said, starting down.
The trail soon reached the floor on the little canyon, turning to follow it down into the gorge. Soon, they were looking up at the soaring cliffs, towering hundreds of feet above, as they neared the water’s edge. Trevor pointed to a massive block of sandstone that jutted out from the cliff top, “That must be Hawk’s Head. It kind of looks like a blocky hawk’s head, the way it juts out like that. When we get back up top, we should climb out to the tip and dangle our feet over the edge while we eat lunch.”
Shane fixed Trevor in a mock withering glare. “Cruel and abusive bastard! Just hearing that made me shiver. I’ve seen pictures of people doing just that; it makes my stomach churn.”
Trevor snickered, pointing downstream, “Okay, let’s keep at water level.”
They explored the riverbank for nearly a mile, and then turned back. Shortly after entering the little canyon they’d descended, Trevor froze and used his arm to bring Shane to a halt. Trevor put his finger to his lips to let Shane know to keep quiet, and then slowly pointed ahead, his eyes open wide.
“It’s a camel,” Shane whispered.
“I can see that, and wow, it’s a big one!” Trevor whispered back, staring at the camel, which was just fifty yards ahead of them on the trail. The camel was facing them but stationary.
“Australia has two or three species of wild camel; they were imported here, then let go about a century ago. There’s supposed to be about a million of ‘em,” Shane said.
“I’d heard there are camels in Australia, but I never expected to see one. I’ve never seen one in person before… they’re big, a lot bigger than horses,” Trevor whispered. The camel let out a soft snort, and took a few steps toward them before pausing. “Uh, are they dangerous?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but I don’t think so. Not unless they get agitated, anyway.” Shane said, and then added sadly, “Any large animal can be a risk under the wrong circumstances. Even sheep can be dangerous.”
“Sheep?” Trevor asked, suspecting a wind-up.
Shane nodded somberly. “Yeah. If they panic in a corral, they can crush you, even crippling you if they hit you just wrong. Bigger animals would be even more of a risk, I guess,” Shane said, stilling his voice when he saw the camel move.
The camel took another few steps in their direction. “It has to see us, and it’s still coming,” Trevor said, and then glanced around. “We’re standing between it and its best way to the river.”
“I don’t think they can climb; let’s get out of its way,” Shane said, looking up the steep boulder-strewn slope to their right. They scrambled a few yards up, and then climbed on top of a car-sized boulder. From that perch, they watched in delighted silence as the camel made its hesitant way down the trail, and stopped to look right at them from ten feet away, before continuing towards the river to drink.
“Wow, that was cool,” Trevor said, with a beaming smile.
That morning, Basingstoke had turned in his motel key and taken to the air again at dawn to resume his search. Sanchez had told him that Joel and Lisa would be arriving in Perth, so Basingstoke played a hunch; that Trevor was heading south. Basingstoke overflew Shark Bay again, and then angled to intercept the coast over the Zuytdorp Cliffs, scouring the seas for any sight of Kookaburra.
There were no anchorages along the Zuytdorp Cliffs, so Basingstoke was soon approaching Kalbarri. He flew over the river mouth at three thousand feet, studying the estuary, which he knew contained a yacht anchorage. A few scattered low clouds made his view imperfect, so he pulled into a sharp bank, descending to one thousand feet to fly just west of the anchorage, where he saw no catamarans.
Basingstoke advanced the throttle, beginning a climbing turn to the west, to take him over Kalbarri and then south to resume his search of the coast.
As he passed over the town, his stomach growled; it was past his lunchtime, and he also knew he’d soon need to visit a bathroom. He glanced again at the town below, and decided that it might be worthwhile to stop and, in his salesman’s guise, ask around about a red catamaran.
Basingstoke checked his airport flight guide, which gave him the particulars for Kalbarri’s small airport: the single runway ran exactly north and south. It was a Unicom field – no control tower – so Basingstoke needed to know which runway was active, and that depended on the wind. The normal way to determine that is to fly close to the airport and look at its windsock, so Basingstoke turned inland, just south of Kalbarri, heading for the airport.
Runways have a number at each end: the first two digits of the compass bearing if landing or taking off in that direction. Wind direction dictates which direction – the ‘active’ runway – is used. In this case, the windsock indicated that the wind was from the northwest, mandating a northbound landing, which meant runway 36 was the active.
At an uncontrolled airport, aircraft fly a landing pattern. Normally – except where constrained by terrain or by dual runways – this is a left-hand pattern, because all turns are to the left. The aircraft flies parallel to the runway in the opposite direction to which they will be landing, then turns ninety degrees to the left to fly the base leg, then turns another ninety degrees to line up on the runway for final approach.
Basingstoke was heading northeast when he passed over the airport to view the windsock, so he instinctively entered a ten-degree bank to port, beginning a long, gentle left-hand turn to take him past the north end of the runway and put him in position to enter the downwind leg, which was west of the runway. The recommended method of entering the downwind leg is from an approach towards the airport at a forty-five degree angle to the downwind leg, which meant he’d need to begin his entry to the pattern from a point about four miles northwest of the airport. That point was his goal, and the slow turn was taking him there.
Basingstoke kept a careful eye out for other aircraft, as his gentle turn continued, and he reached the point for his turn onto the entry leg. Banked as he was, the starboard wing of his low-winged aircraft partially blocked his view to the right, so out of habit he rolled to the right for a moment to lower it, in order to check for any aircraft which might be on the approach leg. He scanned the sky, seeking any flyspeck, and was about to bank to the left to begin his turn when he noticed a glint of red along the river. He stared at it for a moment, his eyes opening wide as he realized what he was seeing: a large red-hulled catamaran, in a side channel, far up the Murchison River.
His plans to land instantly set aside, Basingstoke banked to the right, to make a slow pass close to Kookaburra at a thousand feet. That one pass was all it took: he was sure he’d found his target. Basingstoke rolled his Debonair into a crisp tight turn, reversing course and heading for the landing pattern.
After landing, he assumed his salesman’s persona and called a taxi to take him to Kalbarri.
When Trevor and Shane returned to Kookaburra, daylight was fading fast as the sun dipped below the horizon, so they parked the Jeep and stripped down for their swim. They approached Kookaburra with some apprehension, and were relieved to find her apparently untouched, and that nothing was missing. “Okay, now what?” Shane asked, still dripping from the swim across the Murchison.
“I wish I knew. Let’s check in with Officer Fowler and Mr. Blake and see what happens. I’d like to head for Perth; we’ve got just over a week left before Joel gets here and I want to spend some time in Northam trying to find my relatives. It’ll take us a couple of days to get to the Perth area, probably.”
The first call was to Joel, and after a few minutes of happy chatter, Trevor knew he had to find out about the professor. After a bit of prodding, Joel reluctantly told Trevor that as things stood, the search had to commence on April 15th.
“Any hope at all of an extension?” Trevor asked, trying to hide the despair in his voice.
“If there’s a delay in the development, yeah, but otherwise, he said it needs to be April 15th, because he wants to test it out as soon as it’s ready. I tried, bro, and I’ll keep trying, so don’t give up,” Joel replied, fearing that Trevor might do something desperate.
“Thanks, Joel,” Trevor replied, struggling to sound upbeat, which was far from how he felt.
They talked for a few more minutes, and then Trevor hung up to call Martin Blake, who told them that he’d be there in the morning to pick up the Jeep, and to hold off on calling anyone until he had arrived.
Trevor and Shane tried to put the odd request out of their minds, and decided to spend the remainder of the evening working on the book, trying to keep from worrying about the troubling news.
Lying side by side on the salon floor, they sketched out a chapter covering part of Trevor’s solo transatlantic voyage. Several minutes later, Shane paused from his typing and gave Trevor a one-armed hug. “Crossing the Atlantic solo is pretty rare, and I’ll bet there aren’t many who’ve done it before turning eighteen. I’ll also bet that most people who set out to cross an ocean prepare for months in advance, getting both their boat and themselves ready. I’ve never heard of anyone just setting course to cross an ocean while on a local run before.”
“When I called Lisa and Joel from the Azores, halfway across, they were shocked as hell and told me I was insane,” Trevor said, chuckling at the memory of the call.
Shane ran his fingers through Trevor’s hair, and nodded in agreement. “You are insane, of that there’s no doubt, but what you did is still a hell of a thing. What sticks in my mind is you knew you could do it, even though you’d never done anything like it before.”
“It just seemed to be the way to go at the time, due to needing to stay away until I was eighteen. My original plan was to just hang around the Bahamas so I could spend a lot of time looking for Ares, but Bridget Bellevue warned me that they’d just send me back to my father. That meant I had to be somewhere else. That tore me up because I wanted to hunt for Ares, full time if I could.” Trevor’s mood darkened, and he lowered his gaze to the deck.
“What’s wrong?” Shane asked, in a quiet tone.
“I’ll never regret my voyage, any of it, because it led me to you. I love you, and I’ve never been so happy. It’s just that whenever I think of home, it reminds me that the best chance to find Ares might be lost, because of the problem of getting back in time for the sonar search to happen. We’re on the wrong side of the world and the clock’s ticking. I love being here, but I wish Atlantis would be ready in time. I just keep thinking that this may be the best chance of ever finding Ares, and it’s slipping away,” Trevor said, pounding his fist on the deck in frustration.
Shane gave Trevor another hug. “I love you too, and looking for Ares is my quest too, so I feel it as well. Maybe… that professor will hit a snag, or change his mind and agree to a delay.”
“But what if he doesn’t?” Trevor said morosely, rolling onto his side and pulling Shane into a hug, and then resting his head on his neck, finding needed comfort in the close embrace. “I keep thinking about it. I can only think of two ways, and they’re both bad. One is that Mr. Blake said that my insurance covers Kookaburra while the insurance is paying for my charter. Kookaburra would be fast enough to tow the sonar if she had Atlantis’s props, and changing them out would only take me half an hour, if that. Kookaburra could get us there in plenty of time, but the insurance coverage ends when Atlantis is ready, and we couldn’t have her back here in time. There’s no way in hell Mr. Blake would agree to us taking Kookaburra because of that; his insurance doesn’t cover her away from Australia, he said so, and I don’t have enough money to buy him a rider and still have enough for the voyage. There’s only one way I can see around that, and…” Trevor let his voice trail off, unable to put that thought into words.
Shane hugged Trevor, and rubbed his back, feeling the tension. Then he froze for an instant, and blinked. “Hey, I think you might have found the answer, you just don’t know it yet. Your charter and the coverage that goes with it ends when Atlantis is ready, right? What if it takes a month or two longer than Ned thinks?”
Trevor pulled away so he could look Shane in the eyes. “Okay, that’d mean we could get back in time, if we left soon. But, Ned said April.”
Shane chuckled. “One of Ned’s finer qualities works in our favor: he’s a greedy conniving bastard. We know he’s doing Atlantis up royal – making her better than she was before – because he’s getting a percentage of the cost. He’d gold plate her if he thought he could get away with it. He said April, but you’ve been telling him that you want her back as soon as possible, right? I’ll bet he’d agree to make it take longer, as that’d make it easier for him, but if not, I’ll bet he would if we could find some way to make it worth his while.”
Trevor began to nod, his eyes glazing over as his mind raced. “Yeah, that could work,” Trevor said, but then he frowned. “It’d still mean the Blakes would have to agree to us taking Kookaburra around the world. I can’t see them doing that, not unless… Unless they knew, without any doubt at all, that they couldn’t be hurt. That’s the thing I keep coming back to, the thing I don’t like to think about because it hurts so much. There is one way. I’m legally an adult in a few days, so I’d be able to…” Trevor hesitated, chewing on his lip, before blurting out, “Sign Atlantis over to them. Once Ned is done she’ll be worth as much or more than Kookaburra, and he’ll have her done before the charter season. That way, if anything went wrong, they’d have her. If we get back okay and on time, we’d get Atlantis back, but if not… we’d lose her,” Trevor’s words faded, and he shuddered.
“Trev, I know you, you can’t do that. Signing away Atlantis would be like cutting off your own arm: she’s a part of you.”
“I’d rather cut off my arm, it’d be easier and wouldn’t hurt as much, but if it’s that or lose any hope of finding Ares and what happened to my Mom… what can I do, Shane? And… this is your decision too now; we need Atlantis to make our lives together. If we lose her, I’ll take Australian citizenship and live here, but what will we do? I can flip burgers, I guess, but… that’s not the future I’d hoped for us.”
Shane hugged Trevor tightly, not letting go. “I’ll be happy anywhere, no worries about me. I am worried though, that losing Atlantis would rip you apart; you’d never get over that. Uh, you said two ways a bit ago? What’s the other?”
Trevor took a deep breath and pulled away, quickly retrieving some of the brochures and notes Ned had given him. He found the detailed work plan. “What really keeps Atlantis from being able to put to sea now? Her engines are pretty much okay – they just need a few parts. She needs her bows fixing and the hull patching, she needs new sails, rigging, and some other stuff like electrical for the running lights and new fuel tanks. With that done, she’s mobile again. A lot of that stuff needs doing first anyway, so she’d be sorta seaworthy in time to leave for Florida. She’d still be a mess in a ton of ways, and she wouldn’t have autopilot or a nav system, or much of anything, but she’d be able to put to sea, and we could use handheld GPS and charts for nav, handhelds for radios, and do some of the repair work while underway, but she’d be able to do it.” Trevor frowned and then added, “Now the downside; part of why the professor is willing to do this is spending time on a luxury yacht. A stripped hulk doesn’t fit the bill. Also, we’d need to start running charters pretty soon – my insurance expires in July and I don’t have enough to cover it – and we couldn’t do it without Atlantis in good shape.”
Shane glanced at the work order. “Does the work need to be done all at once? What if we did this, then sailed back here for Ned to finish her? No difference between doing this and taking Kookaburra on a circumnavigation – except Kookaburra works.”
Trevor drummed his fingers on the deck, thinking. “Maybe, but the problem is the insurance. We can’t run charters without it, plus we risk Atlantis if anything bad happens. There’s no way we’d be able to get back here, then back to Florida, before it runs out. Same problem if we use Kookaburra. Also, if I let it lapse, the rate goes up, a lot. I could pay it monthly instead of yearly, but that’s still over a grand a month and we won’t have enough. Once I’ve paid Ned for the deductible I’ll have less than ten thousand left, and there are all kinds of expenses, especially if something needs repairing.”
“Don’t forget; I’m being paid while you’re on Kookaburra, so that’s some money. Still, I see the problem; running out of money before we can run charters, and not being able to really run any because of it. Hey… what about a loan? You own Atlantis free and clear, so why couldn’t you just get a small loan on her to tide us over? She’d be insured, and she’s worth a ton more than you’d need, it’d be like getting a hundred-dollar loan on a new car – easy.”
Trevor shook his head. “I can’t: I checked into that when I first had the idea of getting emancipated. Even though I’ll be legally an adult in a few days, I probably couldn’t get a loan because I’m under eighteen. The rules on that don’t seem to have exceptions for emancipated minors.”
Shane arched an eyebrow. “Trev, you paid your insurance for a year before you left, so wouldn’t that make it expire after your next birthday?”
Trevor blinked in surprise. “Duh! Yeah, it is, so it’d work! How the fuck did I not see that?”
Shane chuckled, reaching out to touch the tip of Trevor’s nose with his finger. “Because you’re crazy, remember?”
Trevor began teasing Shane’s nipple with his thumb, and chuckled. “Yeah, there’s that. Okay, so, best scenario, we take Kookaburra to Florida and back. If the Blakes won’t let us, then… we try with Atlantis and hope like hell the professor agrees to a free charter later that year in return for putting up with her being a mess. We can do some stuff on the way, because we can get all the supplies and parts before we leave.”
Shane’s eyes narrowed. “Ned probably won’t go along with that unless he makes out the same, but yeah, he could say he’s doing the work we’d do and be paid for doing nothing. We could concentrate on putting in a new deck in the salon and fixing up the passenger cabins – and use portable stuff for the galley. That way she wouldn’t be too bad for the professor and his crew, livable anyway.”
“It’d be a long, dangerous, and uncomfortable trip, with a hell of a lot of work,” Trevor pointed out.
Shane intertwined his hand with Trevor’s before replying, “No worries about me, mate. I think Kookaburra is the best option, but we’ll do whatever we have to do. I don’t care if we’ve got to swipe a bathtub from a scrap yard and sail to Florida in it, we’ll find Ares, no matter what it takes,” he said, rolling with Trevor on the deck.
Trevor hugged Shane close. “If the Blakes will agree, yeah. I’d probably still have to sign over Atlantis temporarily, but we’d likely get her back. We’d have to leave soon though – we could leave from Perth, right after Joel arrives. He’s traveling on a frequent flyer award and those kind of tickets can be changed. He could fly home from… maybe Melbourne or Sydney.”
Shane knew something that Trevor didn’t: that Lisa was coming with Joel for a week. He thought for a moment, and realized that the plan would still work; Lisa could fly home from Adelaide. “We’d be able to take Joel to Adelaide and feed him a pie floater,” Shane said, with an evil grin.
Trevor began to laugh. “I did promise payback for the sexual harassment thing, but that might be too cruel – nah, let’s do it!” A smile grew on Trevor’s face as he lost himself in Shane’s eyes. “We’ll find the Ares – together,” he said, pulling Shane into a hug, leading to a deep and passionate kiss and then more, as the two became one.
Morning came, bright and warm, and it would soon be time to meet Martin Blake. Trevor and Shane donned shorts and shirts, heading out on the Zodiac to cross the river. Shane dropped Trevor off at the Jeep, and they went their separate ways to Kalbarri. On the way, Trevor found himself very much enjoying the challenging road; climbing over small gullies, churning through mud, and driving with ease over loose sand that would stop a car in its tracks.
When Trevor picked Shane up at the boat ramp, Trevor patted the steering wheel and said, “This has been a blast. I’ve never been off-roading before, but I love it! It was great of Mr. Blake to let us use his Jeep.”
“Still going to ask him?”
Trevor knew exactly what Shane meant. Trevor chewed on his lip, and then nodded. “Yeah. If he’ll even consider it, that’ll be great, but this way we’re giving him plenty of time to think it over.”
When they arrived at the police station, Martin Blake was just pulling up in his big pickup truck, and to Trevor and Shane’s surprise, he had Greg Fowler with him.
For a few minutes, they chatted about Kalbarri National Park, with Trevor and Shane thanking Martin for the stay in the station and the use of the Jeep.
Trevor glanced towards the river mouth, and said, “I have to be in Perth in a bit over a week to pick up Joel, and we’d like to go early so we can go to Northam to search for my family.
“Northam?” Constable Kaminski asked, arching a confused eyebrow.
Trevor nodded. “I have relatives here in Australia, and they may still be in Northam.”
“It’s inland from Perth,” Martin interjected.
Kaminski paused for a moment, and then replied, “Ah, now I know where you mean. I’ve been through that one on the train; there’s a stop there. It’s a nice little town, from the look of it.”
Trevor paused, and then looked at Martin to ask, “We’ve been trying to figure out where to go from here? We were thinking of heading for the Perth area, but where would we hide Kookaburra there? Fremantle is the closest port, but it’s a busy one and a lot of the press looking for me is from Perth, just a few miles from there.”
Martin gave Fowler a nod, and Fowler smiled. “You’ve no worries in that regard; I’ve set up a place for you to dock where no one can bother you.”
“Somewhere where we won’t be found?” Trevor asked.
Fowler chuckled. “Not exactly. More like somewhere where it won’t matter who knows you’re there, and it’s just a little past Freo,” he said, using the local nickname for Fremantle. “It’s easy to get from there to Perth by car, bus, or commuter train.”
Martin jumped in to say, “One thing first though; Ned wants you to stop in Geraldton on your way south. He’s arranging for something I think he’s talked to you about before; using Kookaburra to pick up a load of large gear for Atlantis, to save the trucking costs. Geraldton is the closest railhead to Carnarvon, and the rail freight center is right at the port.”
Trevor smiled, thinking of the money he’d save – Ned had promised to knock a lot of it off the deductible Trevor would have to pay – but then his smile faded. “That’d mean having to go back to Carnarvon, and I’m supposed to stay away.”
Martin quickly replied, “That should be well in the past by the time you’d need to do it. If not, we’ll find a way – Ned or I can sail Kookaburra in for the last bit ourselves if need be, but Ned does want you to stop in Geraldton. The offices will be closed Sunday, but they open at eight on Monday. He’s going to call their office then, so you’ll be able to sort out all the particulars if you’re there.”
“We can do that, no problem,” Trevor said, as they walked outside, leaving Kaminski behind. Trevor glanced at the river and took a deep breath, knowing that it was now or never, and steeling his nerve. “I have a huge problem. I have to be back in Florida on April 15th…” Trevor went on to explain to Martin and Greg about his search for Ares, and the need to get back to tow the sonar. Finally, Trevor added, “I need a big catamaran with powerful engines, like Atlantis or Kookaburra. I think we could get Atlantis sort of seaworthy pretty fast, then do repairs en route, but… I was remembering that you said Kookaburra is now covered by my insurance, which is worldwide, and I’m being hunted here, and,” Trevor hesitated, and then blurted out, “I was hoping you might let me take Kookaburra home and then back. I’d sign Atlantis over to you as collateral in case something happened and the insurance didn’t cover it, so you wouldn’t be at any risk – she’ll be ready in time for the charter season in Shark Bay – and you’d have a long charter of Kookaburra like you wanted, and I’d take good care of her.”
Martin and Fowler looked at each other for a few moments, and then Fowler replied, “Uh, Trevor, that’s quite a lot to think about. Atlantis would be, well, barely seaworthy to put it charitably, and doing repairs while underway could be dangerous or in some cases impossible, and… I think you should talk to Ned to see if it’s even feasible.”
Martin glanced out at the river for a few moments, before asking quietly, “If you were to take Kookaburra, when would you need to leave by?”
“I was thinking we could start earlier, from Perth, after Joel arrives. Kookaburra would need Atlantis’s props to be fast enough to tow the sonar, so I’d need to go get ‘em first.”
Martin glanced at Fowler, and then replied to Trevor, “I think that’s… quite a journey, though I suppose it would mean keeping you and Kookaburra out of harm’s way, as well as chartered.” He glanced at Fowler for a moment to arch an eyebrow is his direction, and then continued, “I think it would be best if Atlantis stayed in Ned’s yard, so he can finish her repairs properly. However, I think it’s very commendable that you are so dedicated to finding the wreck of your mum’s boat, even after so many years. Trev, I’m usually not one for snap decisions, but the short version is, I suppose, yes.” Martin turned to look at Shane, who was standing by Trevor’s side, looking almost as shocked as Officer Fowler did. “Shane, I take it you’re okay with going along? It’d mean a circumnavigation, and a lot of hard sailing.”
Shane nodded eagerly. “Trev and I want to do this. I think it’s the best way out of a lot of problems, and I’ll take good care of Kookaburra, we both will.”
Fowler glanced around in evident unease. “Uh, Martin, are you sure that’s a good idea? Might it be better to think on it for a while?”
“Owner’s prerogative, Greg, and I’d rather see him do this in Kookaburra as a paid charter than use his own owner’s prerogative to take Atlantis out of Ned’s yard right away. I really can’t think of a good reason not to agree to this, can you?” Before Fowler could reply, Martin looked at Shane and asked, “I trust that your passport is current?”
Shane blanched slightly. “Uh, no, I’ve never had one. I figured I could get one in Perth?”
Martin glanced at Fowler. “This is your bailiwick. What do you think is the best way?”
Fowler scratched his chin. “He’s turned eighteen, so he’d just need his driver’s license and Medicare or bank card, plus his birth certificate. Do you have all those with you, Shane?”
Shane smiled and nodded. “I do, on Kookaburra anyway.”
Fowler held up his hand, palm out, and warned, “One other thing; you were born after August of 1986, so there’s an added requirement on the books now; you must also provide one parent’s full Australian birth certificate, Australian passport, Australian citizenship certificate, or Australian permanent resident certificate.”
Shane’s smile disappeared in an instant. “I have no clue how to get anything from my father, and my aunt has all of Mum’s paperwork. She didn’t have a passport, but my aunt probably has her birth certificate. I… what if she won’t let me have it?”
“That could be a problem,” Fowler observed.
“I’ll try,” Shane said, dreading the call.
After a prodding glance from Martin, Fowler said, “If she won’t, there are ways to get a certified copy from records. Usually a main post office can handle a passport application, but at worst, you’ll need to go to the passport offices in Perth. You should be able to get a passport within ten days, and they would let you pick it up at the passport office, due to extenuating circumstances. You would, however, need a permanent address; Kookaburra wouldn’t count for that.”
Martin smiled. “Shane, just use my address wherever you need one,” Martin said, and then glanced at Trevor, “I’ll need a few days to take care of the paperwork you’ll need for this trip, and I’ll need your signature on some forms for your insurance, but yes, you two can take Kookaburra. I don’t want you anywhere near Carnarvon, so ring Ned and have him ship Atlantis’s props down so you can pick them up. Give me a few days to get it all set up, and you should be able to leave from Perth if you wish.”
“Wow, thanks, I… don’t know what to say,” Trevor said, feeling both utterly astonished and profoundly grateful.
Getting Kookaburra out of the Murchison River proved far easier than getting her in. On Friday, believing that there was no reason to conceal their departure, they sailed just before high tide, in daylight, using the GPS track to retrace their route. Kookaburra brushed sand only once, barely enough to notice, though enough to garner Trevor some ribbing by Shane.
Kookaburra passed Kalbarri’s shore, and Trevor spotted a cause for mild concern ahead: a small powerboat, emblazoned with the name of the rental company. Trevor pointed it out to Shane. “A rental boat, out of the channel, heading inland on the wrong side. Probably a novice, and novices are the most dangerous thing afloat; they cause a lot of collisions back home,” Trevor said, reducing throttle and keeping a close eye on the powerboat.
Once the powerboat had passed, Kookaburra neared the river mouth, with Chinaman’s Point to port. Trevor felt the first vestiges of the ocean swells, and he smiled at Shane. “We’re on our way! We have some stops to make, but the voyage starts here; we’re heading for Florida, then Bimini!” Trevor whooped, feeling more confident than he ever had before that together, they’d at last be able to fulfill his quest of over half his lifetime: to find the wreck of the Ares.
Standing on Chinaman’s Point, where he’d been waiting for ten minutes, Basingstoke watched through a pair of small binoculars as Kookaburra came into view and motored past Kalbarri, dwarfing the other boats in the estuary – including the little powerboat he’d rented for a few hours the day before.
Basingstoke, remembering Kookaburra’s basic layout, focused in on her port helm, where Trevor was at the wheel. It was the first time Basingstoke had ever seen Trevor in person, though he had seen Trevor’s yearbook picture online. Basingstoke felt confident, even at that distance, that he would easily recognize Trevor again, but then another blond head popped into view. Basingstoke could tell that Trevor and Shane were of similar appearance and very close shades of blond, so he was unsure which one of the two was Trevor. “No matter,” he mumbled, returning his binoculars to his briefcase.
The wind on the point was gusty, making for high seas, and Basingstoke observed with detached interest as Kookaburra skirted the bar, and then, heading south and standing out to sea, she raised her massive sails. Her mast – as tall as an eight-story building – was swaying slightly. As Basingstoke watched, Kookaburra picked up speed, her bows slicing cleanly through the long swells. Then, Basingstoke did something that was rare indeed for him – he smiled.
With one last glance at Kookaburra, Basingstoke, briefcase in hand, turned away, merrily whistling the tune to Waltzing Matilda as he strolled back into Kalbarri.
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